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Under the guise of the Bharat Literature Festival (BLF), there is a discernible attempt to spread Hindutva ideology in academics and on campus. With declining academic freedom, BLF appears to be a facet of the regime’s wider effort to systematically alter academic discourse and the college environment.

On November 28th and 29th, 2023, Kirori Mal College (KMC) hosted the Bharat Literature Festival (BLF), which drew severe criticism from college students. BLF, which “intends to connect the learnings of the complicated past with the hope & aspirations of a fascinating future,” organised its Litfest in partnership with KMC. Various renowned authors and journalists were invited for the discussions. However, the event drew more criticism as its itinerary was released, which included discussions regarding RSS and Hindutva. “Pranam Main Hindu Hun: Exploring Inner Hindutva in Popular Culture”, “Sanghe Shakti: Bharat @2047”, “Indian Continent in the Era of Prime Minister Narendra Modi”, etc. were among the topics discussed. Not only the topics, but several of the invited speakers openly support the regime and have called for the genocide of Muslims in the past. 

When viewed in the context of the government’s increasing influence on academic structures, courses, academic discourses, and crackdown on academicians critical of the government, such discussions and events in a central university college with the college as co-organisers highlight how BLF is not just a litfest but a part of a broader movement seeking to assert and disseminate Hindutva principles within the realms of academics.

The Academic Freedom Index (AFI) report, published by the Global Public Policy Institute, placed India in the bottom 30% of 179 countries in 2022, with a score of 0.38 out of 1. Down to Earth extracted the Academic Freedom Score of India and found out that, “The country’s freedom index score was high in the past, ranging from 0.60-0.70 between 1950 and 2012, except from 1974-1978, data showed.” The AFI report reads, “Around 2013, all aspects of academic freedom began to decline strongly, reinforced with Narendra Modi’s election as Prime Minister in 2014.”

TW// Mention of suicide

The suicide of Rohit Vermula, the arrest of Umar Khalid, Natasha Narwal, and many other students under UAPA for participating in anti-CAA protests, the increasing crackdown on Kashmiri students, and the recent controversy over a research paper by an Ashoka University professor titled ‘Democratic Backsliding in the World’s Largest Democracy’, which alleged voter suppression to favour Modi in the 2019 election, all highlight the country’s deteriorating academic freedom. 

All of this, when reviewed in the context of NEP and CUET implementation, points to a more concerning scenario. With the adoption of CUET, student population diversity has decreased, with the majority of students being affluent ‘apolitical’ CBSE students from the North Belt. This apolitical student group fails to understand and acknowledge the hidden politics behind these events, and they fall into the trap that gradually shapes their way of thinking in the direction the regime wants. 

On the condition of anonymity, a third-year KMC student stated, “A lot of my friends and classmates were there, posting stories about BLF.” They are the same folks that will go and discuss casteism, patriarchy, and Islamophobia in their events and discussions. This set of students only wants to talk about these topics in order to feel good about themselves and fall into the category of ‘Progressive Liberal DU Student,’ while failing to understand the real-life ramifications and implementations of the same.”  

In a message circulated in Whatsapp groups, the principal wrote, “During the event, I expect you to (i) Be very disciplined and well behaved, (ii) Be appropriately well dressed according to the theme of the festival…Please note that there is no change in the teaching schedule of the college.” In contrast, students reported disruptions and class cancellations as a result of classrooms being converted into visitor rest areas. A volunteer from the BFL organising committee spoke about the threats posed by the conveners of their college societies. A person said, “We had pressure from the administration, who threatened us. The context for that is hard to explain, but we are being heavily monitored.” 

Another thing to notice here is the indirect imposition of Hindi throughout the event. The majority of the discussion titles were in Hindi, and there was no representation of North-East and South Indian literature at the event. Not just the language, but even the titles, were linked to the regime’s policies and marketing strategies. “Mann ki Baat: Confluence of Policy and Communication in New India” and “Namami Gange” are a few examples.

While all of these are sufficient to understand that the BLF is more than simply a litfest, it also serves as a means of spreading Hindutva ideology and BJP politics. Events like these, as well as the government’s growing control over academics, limit academic freedom, further eroding it. The AFI report explains, “Pressure on institutional autonomy and campus integrity combined with constraints on academics’ freedom of expression is what distinguished India from other countries’ scores on the index. The attacks on academic freedom under Modi’s Hindu nationalist government were also possible due to the absence of a legal framework to protect academic freedom.” The report’s authors further called on higher education policymakers, university leaders, and research funders to promote academic freedom in their own academic institutions as well as abroad.” But until then, the only ways to tackle religious politics and prevent them from impacting colleges and universities are through critical study of such events, self-education, and civil disobedience.

Read Also: The Fear of Being Identified

Featured Image Credits: KMC Instagram Page(@kmcollegedelhi)

DU Beat

 

In an unforeseen turn of events, Bhupendra Tomar, leader of ‘Hindu Raksha Dal’, a right-wing organisation claimed responsibility for the attacks on the teachers and students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi on the 5th January 2019.

 Bhupendra Tomar, leader of Hindu Raksha Dal, a right-leaning organisation claimed responsibility for the attacks on the teachers and students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi on the 5th January 2019 through admission in a video.

The video surfaced on the internet after being posted by a Twitter user where Tomar, popularly known as Pinki Bhaiya blamed the university for being a hotbed of “Anti-National” and “Anti-Hindu” activities.

Bhupendra Tomar, said in the video, “We take full responsibility for the attack in JNU and would like to say that they were our workers. The way these people have been behaving over the years, especially the people in JNU, it is against our religion. We can never tolerate such anti-national activities,”.

According to the ANI report on the issue, Government sources have informed that the claims made by Pinky Chaudhary (Popular name for Bhupendra Tomar) are under investigation. The sources also informed that the Delhi Police is using CCTV footage and facial recognition to identify the masked men and women.

He also added, “These people live in our country, eat here, study here and indulge in anti-national activities. Hindu Raksha Dal will never tolerate this and again attack whoever tries such ideals.”

He with much pride also confirmed the party’s ideology to engage in further violence in the name of nationalism.

Affirming to that, Pinky Chaudhary said, “If in future others indulge in similar anti-national activities, we will again carry out a similar action in those universities. We take responsibility to carry out these actions.”

The gruesome display of violence that the students and teachers of JNU endured where more than thirty people were injured along with tremendous property damage by the people, who were seen carrying around sticks and rods has succumbed to this video.

JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU) president Aishe Ghosh was also injured in the incident and was rushed to AIIMS along with the other injured people. All of them were discharged on Monday.

This incident raises major questions about the safety of the students on campus. However, both JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU) and Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) have blamed each other for the violence.

Feature Image Credits: ANI

Khush Vardhan Dembla

[email protected]

A look at how Gandhi shaped our nation, along with the parts of his character not discussed popularly.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi or Mahatma Gandhi is popularly remembered as the Father of the Nation. He was one of the leaders at the forefront of the Indian freedom struggle, and has a significant role in the attainment of Indian Independence. These are few of the lines we have been told throughout our lives as children – on the 2nd
October every year, on Independence days, and through our History and Political Science textbooks. This is true for the most part and Gandhi’s return from South Africa did
provide a much-needed boost to the freedom struggle. His work with the downtrodden, and his ideas of non-violence still hold a prominent place in the society today.
However, due to the nature of his death, many of Gandhi’s idiosyncrasies and frailties are ignored when it comes to mainstream dialogue. He is considered to be a man beyond wrongdoing, to be the definition of moral standards, and everything we have been taught all our lives just adds to that line of the narrative. The book Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India by Joseph Lelyveld was banned in his home-state of Gujarat when it came out in 2011.

This is interesting because the book does not break any new ground as such, and still speaks glowingly of Gandhi. Although, it does contain the description of some negative aspects and flaws in the great man’s character.
The banning of this book simply shows how the Indian population cannot withstand any attack in any form on those who they deify as gods.

There are many aspects to Gandhi’s character that should be questioned, because it is through the crevices in popularised and validated ideologies that people find the scope to improve society and, by extrapolation, the world.

One of these aspects showcases that Gandhi was a racist for most of his adult life, especially while working on civil rights in South Africa. His work centered on giving Indians more power and rights, as compared to the local natives who he felt were “inferior”. Gandhi wrote to Adolf Hitler twice in 1939 and 1940,and while it was to call for peace, he did write the following- “…nor do we believe you are the monster described by your opponents”.
Sexually, Gandhi had maintained a vow of celibacy; however, according to Lelyveld’s and Jad Adams’ Gandhi: Naked Ambition, it was said that he maintained close and intimate contact with females, making teenagers, women, and allegedly even his own grandniece sleep naked with him
to test his vow of celibacy. He was incredibly sexist and homophobic, propagating the belief that women should be responsible for the sexual assaults they face. He justified honour killings, labelled women who used
contraceptives as “whores”, and once chopped off the hair of two female followers who were being harassed so that the perpetrators would stop. He also led a campaign to have all traces of homoerotic tradition removed from Hindu temples as part of a “sexual cleansing” initiative.
Gandhi might have been the reason that India is still an ideologically backward, and sexually repressed nation. However, it is no justification for the current narrative propagated by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the extremist right-wing labelling Nathuram Godse, Gandhi’s killer, as a hero. The incident involving Pragya Thakur serves as a recent example to this belief. The rise of Hindutva under the extreme right has led to many such people being given a status that
they do not deserve.
To conclude, here is the statement by a student from the University
of Delhi, who does not wish to be named, “I know Gandhi did a lot of messed up things, but how can anyone even think (that) celebrating his killer is good? He still helped our freedom struggle; the celebration of his death because he worked to help the Muslim minority just shows the rising intolerance in our country.”

Feature Image Credits: DU Beat Archives.

Prabhanu Kumar Das
[email protected] 

The University of Delhi (DU) saw controversy
unfold over Savarkar, from demands to
rename the Delhi University Students’ Union
(DUSU) Office after V.D. Savarkar, to the
installation of a pillar with his bust, along
with those of Subhas Chandra Bose and
Bhagat Singh in the campus. The ideological
warfare about his thoughts continues to be
controversial.

As the DUSU elections approach, the
University is grappling with the Savarkar
Statue Controversy. The illegal installation
of the bust, followed by its removal,
reveals the ideological tussle between the
different schools of thought.
An extremist in his thoughts, Savarkar
was an Indian Independence activist who
rebelled against the British rule through
revolutionary means, and was imprisoned
due to his anti-coloniser activities.
Following a failed attempt to escape
while being transported from Marseilles
in France, he was sentenced to two life
terms of imprisonment, and eventually
landed in the cellular jail or Kala Pani.
Savarkar has been always been at the
eye of the storm, for being viewed as a
“coward” since he wrote letters to the
British, pleading to be released from the
torture of the cellular jail.
Being an atheist, he believed that
Hinduism was a political identity having
a powerful moral force. While in prison,
Savarkar wrote the work describing
Hindutva in which he defined that all
people descended from Hindu culture
as being a part of Hindutva, including
Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs. The noted
journalist, Manu Joseph, recently opined,
“The erasure of Savarkar by intellectuals
1.0 was so complete that at the end of it
all, he was not even a villain. He was not
mentioned in textbooks even as one of the
accused in the assassination of Mahatma
Gandhi. Savarkar’s insight was that
Hinduism was a powerful political identity
that does not require gods, or even the
cow actually, whom he did not love very
much, and that Hinduism is a fundamental
genetic force in all Indians. In this way, he
invented Hindutva.”
The very fact that the revolutionary
ideas of Savarkar remain to be missing
from our mainstream reading and
textbooks, does not allow the discussion
on his extreme views in the freedom
struggle movement through Hindutva.
Vaibhav Purandare, in his book The True
Story of the Father of Hindutva reveals
Savarkar’s professed hatred for Muslims.
In his early years as a revolutionary,
Savarkar asked Hindus and Muslims to
get along, but eventually, he wished to
subdue Muslims.
Earlier this month, on 12th August, the
Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP)
demanded the DUSU Office be named
after Veer Savarkar. Following this, the
ABVP and DUSU installed the busts of
V.D. Savarkar, Subhas Chandra Bose,
and Bhagat Singh outside the Faculty
of Arts in the North Campus and faced
criticism, followed by the attack on the
statue and smearing black colour on
the bust by the National Students’
Union of India.
Shakti Singh, the outgoing President
of DUSU, said, “Since the beginning
of my term, I was requesting the DU
administration for establishing the statues
but never got a reply from them. The
left-wing forces and the Congress party
have always defamed Veer Savarkar.
So, I wanted that this issue should be
debated so that the youth can know about
his contribution to the freedom struggle
of the country.”
Madhu Prasad, former Professor of
Philosophy, Zakir Hussain College said,
“Bhagat Singh believed that the country
won’t get freedom unless there is equality.
However, the current scenario in this
country does not allow debate, discussion,
and dissent, and idolising Savarkar is
against the essence of freedom.”
While he worked upon reforming
and revolting the colonial rule, his
extreme positions on Gandhi, Hindu
Rashtra, and Muslims bestows him with
political exclusion.

Feature Image Credits: Prateek Pankaj for DU Beat

Sriya Rane

[email protected]